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How to Resist, Rebuild and Recharge with Your Wellness Community

How to Resist, Rebuild and Recharge with Your Wellness Community

By Janine White

In response to Trump’s presidency, gyms, yoga studios and wellness centers across the country are experimenting with how to engage their clients and communities in the Three R’sResisting, Rebuilding, Recharging. Given that about 50.2 million Americans currently belong to health clubs and 36.7 million adults practice yoga, such spaces can provide a real opportunity for people to build healthy practices both physically and politically.

Here’s an example of how our yoga studio in New York has sparked new levels of mindful social action with our community. We hope our story might inspire ideas about how some of these actions could work at your favorite wellness spaces.

At Harlem Yoga Studio in New York where I teach, we’ve created a monthly Mindful Community in Action group, hosted by studio owners Erica Barth and Laurel Katz-Bohen. Political issues deeply affect us and our communities: from Women’s Rights to Black Lives Matter, Healthcare, LGBTQ rights, the environment, the list goes on. Our yogis are committed to taking what we practice on our mats — compassion, mindfulness, self-care, and community well-being — out into the world.

In designing these Mindful Community in Action gatherings, we cast a wide net across our HYS community and beyond, drawing on a number of guiding resources. I originally met Erica in 2014 at Off the Mat, Into the World’s Yoga, Purpose and Action Intensive, inspiring yogis to work towards social change. In partnership with CTZNWell, we co-hosted a Vote Together Circle just before the 2016 election as part of their VoteWell Campaign. This workshop connected our yoga practice with a reflection on how our election choices could promote well-being in our communities. The Indivisible Guide and Wall-of-Us have also been great resources.

In a nutshell, our monthly meetings take place on Sundays from 2-5pm. They’re open to all members of the HYS community and anyone else interested in participating. We devote the first half of the session to yoga and meditation, and the second half to discussion and civic action.

In the spirit of learning and sharing, here are more details and thoughts about how HYS’s Mindful Community in Action group has provided space for recharging, rebuilding, and resisting.

Recharge

I start with this one because it might seem the most obvious, and because it’s how we begin our meetings. The first hour involves gentle yoga and short meditation practices. This helps to ground us in our experience and brings us into the moment. Movement and meditation also support us as we process the stress we may be feeling as a result of what’s going on in our world these days. This practice can be transformative in the small way that we can almost guarantee a shift in how we feel (often for the better) by the time we’re done. Or we might have an a-ha moment when something makes sense in our bodies or our minds as we start to unwind. We often conclude this practice feeling more in touch with ourselves, and more recharged to dive into addressing the challenges going on around us.

Rebuild

Speaking more generally about our action group as a whole, practicing in this community lets us know that we’re not in this alone. It’s a chance for us to move together and breathe together. After the silence of our meditation, we also reflect in conversation on how we’re dealing with the current political climate. While it may at times feel like we’re preaching to the choir with our political views, HYS represents a diverse community of races, genders, ages, bodies, countries of origin, languages, etc. Through our shared practice and political engagement, we build connections across differences that are supposed to divide us. This in and of itself is an act of resistance, and something that has become more important than ever. The diversity reflected in HYS yoga practitioners and action group members makes for rich and wide-ranging conversation in our supportive group.

Resist

The second half of the meeting funnels our recharging and rebuilding into concrete resistance actions:

  • Each month, our agenda involves informing each other about and addressing a few key pressing, specific issues at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • We have divided up roles and responsibilities for the group (referencing the Indivisible Guide’s Toolkit).
  • Group members have also volunteered to keep tabs on issues identified as most important to our group and share updates with everyone at the meetings and on our Facebook group.
  • We often write postcards to local, state, and federal officials as well as to business leaders, influential people or institutions in the media to show our support for their actions, or offer our encouragement for them to change their direction.
  • The group has also been a platform for organizing attendance at the Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and New York City in January, as well as other local protest actions that have taken place over the last few months.

These actions highlight just a few ways in which a well-being community – whether it’s a yoga studio, a meditation center, or a gym or workout space – can join the Resistance. For many, the 2016 election has shown just how political our individual choices are, as well as the importance of our communities, which we cannot take for granted.

It might seem scary or unusual to bring up politics in this kind of space, but it can start with something as simple as introducing yourself to someone on the mat next to you, finding out what brought them there that day, and seeing where the conversation goes from there.

Do you think your local yoga studio or wellness community might be interested in hosting a community action group? Are you in the Harlem/New York City area and would like to join us? If you have any questions or would like to share your own story of how your wellness community has joined the Resistance, we’d love to hear from you!

 Janine White is a yoga and mindfulness instructor who works with non-profits focusing on the intersection between education, youth development, and social justice. She offers workshops for diverse groups of youth and mission-driven organizations to support leadership development, team-building, and health and wellness. She can be contacted here. You can also contact Harlem Yoga Studio via their website.

 


Coping With Disturbing Feelings Under Trump

COPING WITH DISTURBING FEELINGS UNDER TRUMP
Sally Rudoy, LCSW

1) Control how and when you get your news.
Some people just cannot look at news during dark times. Others cannot look away. If you’re the kind of person who needs to stay current then limit your news intake. Here are some suggestions.

• Don’t keep checking your news feeds. Do not follow every tweet. You are re-traumatizing a wound. Limit how frequently you check the news. Choose one or two times a day to catch up.
• Change how you get your news. For example, If you mostly get your news from tv perhaps switch to radio or podcasts or written articles. Sometimes images of the offending people/situations can be upsetting.
• Turn off your digital devices at least one hour before bedtime. Do something that settles you down before sleep. For example, read fiction, take a bath, listen to music, or connect with a go-to person.

2) Don’t be alone with your grief.
Talk to the people you trust and who make you feel secure such as partners, family members, friends, clergy, or teachers. It can reassure you that there are good people in the world and that many likeminded souls are going through this difficult time as well. Sometimes a conversation with an older people who has seen many administrations come and go can help put this time in a historical perspective. You are not alone

3) Monitor your food, alcohol, and other substances intake.
Are you turning to these substances for comfort or self-medication? Substitute the impulse to imbibe with healthier or fun self care activities. Some suggestions that have helped others include yoga, massage, dance, movie-attendance, art, or rereading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. (Currently, I have been binge watching a BBC series based on a 19th century English novel. Happily, the available weapons of mass destruction do not get more bloody than an occasional bayonet or cannon.) It may feel like the world is falling apart. Even so you are permitted one hour a day to do something that soothes you. It’s important to replenish yourself in order to take on the rest of the day or, if you are an activist, to take on the battles ahead.

4) To deal with a sense of powerlessness take action.
The weekend after the executive order ban was issued resistance and protest had an impact. The protesters and lawyers who went to airports influenced the administration to walk back aspects of the green card portion of the ban. Find some organization that is fighting for the causes you believe in: donate, protest, write letters, and call representatives.

5) Listen to Krista Tippett’s ON BEING interview with Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis — The Art & Discipline of Nonviolence


In this uplifting interview,Congressman Lewis talks about the early days of the civil rights movement and how it created a non-violent revolution. He shares wisdom from Gandhi and Martin Luther King as well as his belief in the power of resistance and love to change society.

6) What to do if your feelings of depression and anxiety persist
If none of the above works and after a few weeks you are still upset you should seek professional help. You’ll know this is more than a passing phase if you are experiencing:

• Changes in your sleeping and eating behaviors (too much or too little)
• Trouble concentrating
• Lack of enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities
• Feeling sluggish and sapped of energy despite lots of sleep
• Persistent guilty and troubling thoughts or feelings of worthlessness.

If you have any of these symptoms you should see a mental health counselor soon.

If you are feeling desperate or having suicidal thoughts, you need to call 911 or go to your nearest emergency hospital room immediately.


Recharge: Everyday Mental Health Habits for Tough Times

Recharge: Everyday Mental Health Habits for Tough Times
By the MY100DayPlans Team & Special Guest Dr. Amalea Seelig

So, how’s 2017 going for you so far? For many, it’s been an incredibly stressful year. Have you hit the wall yet? Are you finding yourself overwhelmed, upset, exhausted and facing energetic burnout? Recent political upheaval may heighten these common emotions to more intense levels of depression or anxiety.

We spoke with our friend Dr. Amalea Seelig who kindly shared with us a few practical things you can do right now that will help you recharge your mental batteries and find your balance. In the days ahead, everyday choices can greatly improve your overall resilience during tough times. Even if you just pick one or two of the actions below, do them as often as you can muster.

Building some “recharge” into your #MY100DayPlans will make a big difference to you and those around you.

1. Notice your breath.
When I say this to my patients, many of them will start breathing as if their life depended on it. No, just notice you HAVE breath. Feel how it feels to breathe. There is a rhythm to your breath, see if you can follow it. You will likely only be able to do this for a few seconds at a time; that’s perfect. Even if you are someone who regularly meditates, this moment of attention will matter. This is a practice you can do at any moment in time, alone or with others, in traffic, buying clothes, or engaging in social media (an especially good time). Being aware in this way can bring needed moments of relief and well-being.

2. Choose your words.
Make conscious decisions about how you speak and to whom. When something is right there for us to say because it just happened or is upsetting, we repeat it, sometimes on multiple occasions and with many details, to whomever might be there to listen. Don’t repeat (or re-tweet) everything you hear, don’t focus on negative interactions you have had, and reduce gossip and complaining. You can even let others know this is what you’re doing; it will remind you, empower you and even might have others be more intentional about how they speak. Look for actions like these to conserve and build psychic energy.

3. Shut out noise.
At some point, being constantly available for the next update, story, email, message, tweet or Instagram is not a benefit, as compelling as it may seem in the moment. ALWAYS make choices about how much time you spend engaged online. Help yourself out of the rabbit hole; decide how much of your day you will devote to social media and news cycle consumption. Set your timer and press start each time you engage. When the time is up, step away from your machines.

4. Connect to your life.
Continue to do those things that matter to you, especially spending time with other human beings. Sometimes when something big is happening it can seem like that’s all there is to care about. But your individual life, and living it fully, is essential. Engage in your usual routines and hobbies, make plans for now and the future, and spend time out in the world. This structure, like a fortress, will support you; feel it. In some moments, you may experience some joy or gratitude; feel that too.

5. Realize.
You have but one point of view. Everyone wants to think that might, right and good is on their side. But people you know — some whom you love and are related to, and even just other human beings with different lives, concerns and experiences — view things differently than you. See if you can understand another’s point of view. It doesn’t mean you agree with or condone that view. It also doesn’t diminish your conviction. We all live here and somehow we have to move ahead.

6. Take action.
Do something – whether it’s joining MY100DayPlans.com or any constructive action. Stop thinking. Though you may believe you are getting somewhere in there, the onslaught of your thoughts can paralyze you, distort reality and waste time. Act in some way, right now, that moves something forward in your life, your community, the real world. It can be small, medium or large. You will know what there is to do.

7. Rest.
Go to sleep. Be consistent with your bedtime. Take an hour to wind down, with no distraction. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. As you lay still, experience the value of the day that has past. Whatever you have contributed, fill yourself with it. Tomorrow is a new day, let it come.

We hope these reminders are helpful. For those of you who already do many of these activities but who are still feeling stressed, try going deeper into your practices or try out a new practice, like a new healing technique or a silent retreat. With all the noise and chaos, longer more immersive self-care may provide the deep recharge you need.

And for those still feeling especially vulnerable or upset, the steps above may not be enough. You may find yourself unable to emerge from the anxious fog. If this is your experience, please seek professional help. Dr. Seelig also shared recommended resources for additional support at the bottom of this post.

Bottom line: we are only a month into the New Year. This will be a long haul — start putting some healthy practices into your routine, either alone or with old and new friends. We will make it through this, one step at a time, one breath at a time, one day at a time.

Thank you for being there, and hanging in there.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
~ William James

Amalea K. Seelig, PsyD is a clinical psychologist practicing in NYC. She treats men and women who have been injured in the workplace and also maintains a private practice. Dr. Seelig is committed to every day mental health choices that matter. Her website is www.amaleaseeligpsyd.com.

Find a therapist
Use your insurance company’s website and go to the Behavioral or Mental Health page.

NYC reduced fee options
http://www.tc.columbia.edu/ceps/
http://icpnyc.org/

National provider listing
https://www.psychologytoday.com

Crisis intervention 24/7
NYC
https://nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/

National
http://www.crisischat.org/
http://www.crisistextline.org/